A third of India’s rural households are landless and depend on manual labour for an income, reflecting the extent of poverty that prevails in the villages, according to a census that the government described as being a crucial guide to bettering the lives of the poor.
As for education, about a fourth of the 17.91 crore households in the country’s villages don’t have a literate adult above the age of 25, according to the provisional findings of the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 for rural India.
The census was released by the government on Friday. The country has a total of 24.39 crore households, putting 73% of them in rural areas. This is the first such survey in more than eight decades.
Releasing preliminary findings was a matter of urgency because the government wants to get cracking on measures to improve lives of the poor, given the acute rural distress that’s been reflected in recent farmer suicides amid fluctuations in weather patterns and a monsoon that started out well but has suddenly taken a break.
"The survey has been completed in all the 640 districts," the finance ministry said in a release. "It is provisional as final lists are being uploaded in some districts after addressing objections received. It is being released as use in evidence-based planning for rural development and poverty reduction needs to be undertaken immediately."
The census also reported that in about 74% of rural households, the income of the highest earning member is less than Rs 5,000 per month.
Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings, highlighted the extent to which the landless depend on manual labour for an income. "This is an important statistic when we talk of fair compensation," he said. "The whole purpose of this data is to link it with the various developmental programmes in a targeted manner. For the first time they have given a data for deprived and non-deprived, which can be very effectively used."
Census data will be used to map household-wise progress and social support needs over the years and make evidencebased, targeted household interventions for poverty reduction possible. The rural development ministry will use SECC data in all its programmes. It will also be used to inform the government’s Antyodaya skill development mission along with the Gram Panchayat Poverty Reduction Plan.
The census has generated information on a large number of social and economic indicators related to households in areas such as education, skills, housing, employment, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, social and gender mobilisation and entitlement.